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“We wanted to upgrade the process improvement skills of all of our staff, and Shelley was superb in every way! She taught us not only advanced business process improvement skills, but also her wealth of real client experiences added a great amount of color and dimension to the training. We are already using her ideas with our clients. Thank you Shelley!”

Shelly Berlin
Berlin, Eaton & Associates


How Do You Overcome These Barriers to BPM Success?

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 7.13.20 PMLots of barriers get in the way of taking the time to analyze how we do work, making recommendations, implementing, and making the improvements stick over time. In a research paper we did, we developed three stages for successful process improvement and common barriers at each stage. (See article for more information on the research results and nirvana stage.) Here are the common barriers at each stage.

Barriers at Keep It Small and Simple Stage (This is the first stage in the model where it’s important to choose process improvement project that are smaller and simpler.)

  1. Employees getting pulled off an improvement project to another more important project and the project just dying a slow death.
  2. Taking on an early project which is not than meaningful or too large, and interest wanes or the project bogs down. You hear, “We knew this wouldn’t happen anyway.”
  3. Improvement projects are important after you finish your regular work. So projects get low priority, delay, and often don’t get done.

The three barriers in Keep It Small and Simple can be recognized by a project improvement leader or facilitator and brought to the business owner’s perspective. Then the business owner could take some of these actions:

  1. Decide if this project is important and make it a priority over the other project or find additional resources for the other project. Or discontinue this project altogether.
  2. Articulate if this project is meaningful or not and continue or discontinue based on the evaluation. Reduce the scope if this project is too large at this time.
  3. Make time for the team to work on this project during work hours, by removing some of their other projects, hiring additional contract staff, etc.

Barriers at Maintain Improvements and Extend Wider Stage (This is the second stage in the model where the company needs to maintain new improvements in the workplace and extend projects to new areas of the company.)

  1. Middle managers are resistant to changes and prevent projects in their area or are slow to implement changes.
  2. Providing extensive training, but training is not associated with immediate projects so training provides employee skills but not business results
  3. Outside consultants or internal experts do all the work. That means a project gets done but often with minimal manager and employee engagement. The result can be hesitant or minimal implementation.

The three barriers in Maintain Improvements and Extend Wider are related to methods of engagement.

  1. Middle managers need to be part of the change management plan. Their concerns and benefits need to be understood. They need to be part of the work on the improvement project –as the business owner, or project lead for the project. They need to be engaged early on to help understand the current methods, analyze how to improve then and suggest solutions. If there are middle managers that are part of the actual work, but not on the team, then use a communication plan which allows their input, and engage them in reviewing and testing prototypes.
  2. The best training is action learning, where skills for the project are taught as part of the project real time. Skill learning is then immediately applied to their real and immediate project, with opportunity for ongoing learning, adjustments, and a coach to help.
  3. It is a good practice to have outside consultants or internal practitioners help at this stage. But if they take all the responsibility the manager and employee contributors will just provide input and expect the consultants to do all the work. Instead have these people provide coaching and facilitate the team’s efforts in meetings or workshops.

Barriers in Make it the Way You Do Business Every Day (This is the third stage in the model and can be nirvana. Here the company incorporates operational improvements into the daily business and can build exceptional customer loyalty.)

  1. The enticement of shiny new things. Paying attention to execution and how to improve it is just the program of the month. There will be another program soon and it will be better.
  2. The new leadership in our division or the CEO at the top changes and s/he wants to focus on something else.
  3. We do a really good job with projects but pretty soon the implementation results slip away. We can’t ever move to making it part of how we do work and then doing ongoing improvement.

In the third phase the barriers have to do with how to keep going forward when there is a major change that disrupts how you Make it the Way You Do Business Every Day. Leadership can really help here.

  1. If a new program gets initiated, the leader has to communicate its role, and articulate how it relates to how the company does business. Will this new program add to our work? Will it replace the way we used to do things? What will the benefits or consequences be?
  2. The new leader articulates how this new program impacts the company direction. What is new, how does it add to or replace what we currently do, and what will be the benefits?
  3. Again, in the ninth barrier, the leader needs to decide how to get commitment to incorporating changes into the work – e.g. by doing regular monitoring at senior meetings, by making it part of company and manager performance plans, by providing tools and staff to monitor and coach.

Combatting these common barriers isn’t easy, but it can be addressed if

  • You recognize the problem early and discuss it; try to identify the root cause instead of putting your head in the sand or blaming it on some one
  • Take correction action and see if there are any improvements
  • Fold the project if that makes sense.







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1 comment to How Do You Overcome These Barriers to BPM Success?

  • Christa

    Working in a large corporation and managing a small business I often encounter barriers to process improvement: politics, time, resources, competing priorities, etc. I like the succinct summary at the end of the post. Communication is essential; address the problem head on and take action even if it means ending the project.

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